What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

Slavic Corps Before the Wagner Group

Speaking of the Wagner Group, it is impossible not to mention the Slavic Corps, another Russian mercenary enterprise in the earlier period. The Slav Legion was originally an overseas registered private security contractor (PMC).

Its business was limited to the provision of security services. However, after the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2013, the Slav Legion signed a contract with the Syrian oil company and sent security personnel for armed escort.

When the security personnel of the Slavic Corps arrived at the station, the oil field unexpectedly had been captured by the local extremist forces. The security personnel of the Slavic Legion launched an attack on the extremist militants in an attempt to retake the oil field but failed it was then that extremist forces obtained evidence of the Slavic Legion’s involvement in military operations.

Since Russia had not used military means to intervene in the Syrian issue at the time, the incident made Russia extremely passive. Eventually, the Russian government banned the Slavic Army and sentenced two company executives to prison.

Rise of Wagner 

The Slavic Legion broke the PMC’s rules, but Russia seems to have seen another way of foreign military intervention. After the Slavic Corps died down, the Wagner Group quietly started activities in the conflict areas in Russia and gradually made a name for itself.

Rumor has it that the Wagner Group was co-founded by wealthy Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigogine, known as “Putin’s chef,” and has close ties to the Russian government, especially Putin himself.

What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

The general commander of the Wagner Group is former Russian Army Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Utkin, who served in the Russian military intelligence agency (GRU). These two key figures have filled the Wagner Group with a rich official color. Its establishment allowed the Wagner Group to undertake many tasks that other mercenary organizations could not undertake – the same as the prosperous after the Second Gulf War. Unlike PMC, although the Wagner Group is also a mercenary organization, its contracted business is far more than armed protection.

In addition, the relationship between the Wagner Group and the Russian government and military is not comparable to that of PMC. Typical PMCs such as Blackwater in the United States have personnel from retired senior commanders and retired special operators. Still, they remain independent in operation and are basically “cold” in customer selection.

In contrast, the Wagner Group not only has personnel from the Russian army but also often relies on the Russian army’s command and logistical support system when conducting overseas activities.

Wagner Group and Russian Armed forces

It is no exaggeration to say that it is not official Russian military personnel. If you just look at the source of the Wagner Group’s personnel. In that case, it is not difficult to find that the personnel it employs are retired soldiers from elite combat forces such as the Airborne Forces, Alpha Special Forces, and Special Forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

On the one hand, this high-quality source of troops ensures the “business capability” of the Wagner Group and makes it a good record in overseas operations. On the other hand, it is not difficult to reflect on the depth of its “cooperation” with the Russian military.

Wagner’s Equipment Possession 

The specialized equipment used by ordinary mercenary companies is often limited in quantity and technical level. But that’s not the case with the Wagner group; the kind of advanced equipment the Wagner group possesses is astounding.

The Wagner Group has used many T-72 battle tanks, “Tiger” armored off-road vehicles, BM -21 multiple rocket launchers, and D-30 howitzers are currently in active service in the Russian army, as well as aviation equipment such as MiG-29 fighter jets and Mi-24 armed helicopters.

The Wagner Group has some high-tech weapons and equipment, such as the S-300 long-range air defense system, the GROZA-S anti-drone system, etc. However, on the other hand, these high-tech equipment are all “temporary” and are only used in a limited number of operations.

In other words, they are self-produced by the armed forces of the Russian Federation and only temporarily seconded to the Wagner Group according to the needs of the situation. This can also reflect the “true identity” of the Wagner Group.

What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

On the issue of Russian law not recognizing the legitimacy of mercenaries, The existence and activities of the Wagner Group violate Russian law. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in December 2018 that Wagner could be allowed to operate without violating the law. Operate anywhere in the world.

Such flexible rhetoric already shows the official Russian support for the Wagner Group. Accordingly, the West generally believes that the Wagner Group is, in fact, a “vest” organization under the Russian army, and its actions are also directly under the Russian government and military.

It should be said that at a time when some countries that are keen to interfere in extraterritorial affairs are paying more and more attention to the “legality” of their actions. It is not surprising that the Russian government “hires” the Wagner Group to perform some tasks that are not convenient for the direct deployment of the Russian army.

The effort to highlight the unofficial nature of the Wagner Group as a mercenary enterprise, on the one hand, and the undisguised relationship between the Wagner Group and its own government, on the other hand, is very unusual.

The Wagner Group has repeatedly worked hard for the Russian government in hot spots in recent years. It can almost be said that the Wagner Group exists wherever the war breaks out. The Wagner Group’s “World War I” was its operation in Syria in 2015. From September 2015 to May 2016, the Wagner Group participated in a series of significant battles, including the attack on Palmyra.

At the beginning of 2017, the Wagner Group once again sent people to Syria to assist the Russian army and the Syrian government forces in combat. During the Libyan civil conflict in 2019, the Wagner Group sent a large number of armed personnel to Libya to provide support for the “Libyan National Army” led by the Russian-backed Haftar: clearance and “decapitation” missions, minefield control, and more.

In addition to the direct “end,” the Wagner Group also provides relatively “conventional” security services. In January 2019, armed members of the Wagner Group appeared in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and other places. Then, the Russian government confirmed on the 23rd of the same month that the Wagner Group was conducting personnel training for Sudanese security agencies.

At the same time, Western media claimed that the Wagner Group sent people to Venezuela to provide security protection for Venezuelan President Maduro. However, as the “white glove” of the Russian government, the Wagner Group will also undertake some “shady” tasks and even be used in countries that have friendly relations with Russia.

On July 29, 2020, the Belarusian side arrested 32 members of the Wagner Group in Minsk for interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus and sabotaging elections. The Russian side denies this, of course, but considering Belarus’s relationship with Russia at the time, this denial is full of irony.

What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

This is not the first time the Wagner Group has been involved in the Ukraine issue. As early as 2014, when the civil conflict in Ukraine broke out, the Wagner Group was active in Crimea and then participated in exchanging fire between the Ukrainian government and the eastern local armed forces.

This was also the first time that the Wagner Group was abroad on a large scale. Carrying out armed operations, In the several domestic armed conflicts in Ukraine since then, the armed members of the Wagner Group have not been absent.

It is worth mentioning that due to the attack by the Ukrainian government, the armed personnel in Dunlu suffered severe losses, and their lives were unbearable. Many local armed rebels in eastern Ukraine also joined the Wagner Group and formed the “Vesna Squad.” This team of about 150 people has participated in military operations in the Middle East and West Africa for a long time and has accumulated rich practical experience.

After the Wagner Group participated in the offensive against eastern Ukraine this time, it gave this former Ukrainian personnel a chance to “return to their hometown for revenge.” They will likely face the danger of being “beaten to death.”

Naturally, the scale of the Wagner Group’s “arrogant” actions and its support from the Russian government cannot prevent it from being tolerated by Western countries.

On December 13, EU countries announced sanctions on the Wagner Group, including a travel ban and an asset freeze. Subsequently, on December 23, 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Canada, condemned the Wagner Group in a joint statement on the grounds that the activities of the Wagner Group in Mali aggravated the local human rights situation and disrupted the peace and order in West Africa.

On the surface, the sanctions imposed by Western countries on the Wagner Group appear to have high-sounding reasons, but in fact, they are a matter of out-and-out national and economic interests. After France announced its withdrawal from the Saleh region of Mali in 2021, the Mali government immediately negotiated with Russia. Proposed to hire 1,000 Wagner Group armed personnel to fill the vacuum of military power, ensure local security and order, and fight terrorism.

There is no doubt that this is a blatant “infiltration” for France, which regards West Africa as a “reserved land,” while the Wagner Group made money from Mali. The money is bound to make some Western “peers” who hope to take advantage of the chaos to profit.What is the Notorious Wagner Group & Its Relationship with the Russian Armed Forces?

And after Russia began its attack on Ukraine, the Wagner Group was rightfully a guest on the Western sanctions list. On February 25, Canada announced additional sanctions on 62 Russian entities and individuals, including the Wagner Group.

It should be said that this kind of sanction is quite “conventional” or even irrelevant. After several rounds of Western sanctions, the Wagner Group has disappeared. This kind of sanction is not so much a political statement as a routine.

In short, it is a sure thing for the Wagner Group to intervene in the situation in Ukraine. Given the consistent reputation of this “notorious” mercenary organization, Ukrainian armed men had better pray that they don’t run into these vicious killing machines.